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Vietnam to slap higher taxes on tobacco

Publication Date : 30-01-2013


Vietnam is set to apply higher taxes, along with other stricter measures, on cigarette trading to limit consumption.

The measures are part of a long-term national strategy to combat tobacco damage that has been approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

On average, total taxes on cigarettes in the country account for almost 45 per cent of the retail sale price. Meanwhile, the tax level suggested by the World Health Organisation and World Bank is between 60 and 80 per cent.

The strategy, to be implemented until 2020, seeks to reduce the number of smokers in the 15-24 age group to 18 per cent from 26 per cent; and the overall number of male and female smokers by 39 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health show Vietnamese males stand 15th among the highest smoking groups in the world.

Le Viet Hoa, an expert of Health Bridge Canada in Vietnam, said fixing a floor-level price and raising tax levels on tobacco production and import is a really effective way to directly reduce the demand.

She explained the average retail prices of under 20,000 dong (US$0.90) per cigarette pack facilitates many to buy. So, if the price of cigarettes is legally set higher, the number of smokers who can afford to buy them will surely become lower.

There will be a circular regulating that tobacco production company must be responsible for warning tobacco impacts by colourful images printed on their packs, she said.

Hoa said these big images of tobacco impacts, such as diseases, occupying a large part of the packets will directly affect people's spirit and change their mind. "They are too terrible to ignore."

The strategy also plans that Vietnam is set to ban the sale of cigarettes to people under 18, and also the hiring of people of this age group to sell tobacco products.

Lawyer Nguyen Dang Khoa of Hai Phong City said it is necessary to have licences for tobacco trading activities, even for retailer, like other countries.

Hoa if they weren't licensed this measure would be ineffective because retail trading cigarettes in the country was still out of control.
Le Manh Hong, 16, in Ha Noi's Dong Da District, said he has started smoking for two years.

He said his father was also a tobacco addict and many of his friends were like him. He could buy cigarettes everywhere. However, he just dared to smoke at a coffee shop, not at home.

The strategy requires the Ministry of Health to co-operate with relevant agencies and come up with specific programmes and action plans to improve people's knowledge and awareness of the serious harm caused by smoking.

A steering committee on fighting and preventing the negative impacts of tobacco consumption will be formed in each locality with the participation of all sectors.

Various financial resources should be tapped to implement the strategy, the PM directed.

A 2010 survey revealed that there were 15.3 million smokers in the country and about 8 million others exposed to cigarette smoke at work, with a staggering 47 million passive smokers at home.

About 40,000 smoking-related deaths were recorded in the country each year. The number was forecast to reach around 70,000 in 2030 if drastic measures weren't taken.


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